Thursday, March 17, 2011

How I Cut The Cord - You Can Live Without Cable Or A Land-line

Cutting the cord; many of us talk about it, not everyone does it. It takes a bit of courage to walk off the ledge. Although the cable may be hard it is nothing compared to the land-line. I will tell you how I did it each and what is being used to fill the void.

Cable: This I did as a step down. Starting with full premium cable, to basic, and then none. This worked well to transition and learn how to fill the missing channels with other things. It can be very difficult if you like to channel surf. Without cable you pretty much need to know what you want to watch; you will not be stumbling on to a show or movie. Do this step down over a six month period and you will be fine. My set up:

  • Use free over-the-air HD and SD channels - You can usually get your local NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and PBS.
  • Spare laptop (with broken screen) permanently hooked up via HDMI - I use a remote to turn it on and an on-screen keyboard with a wireless external mouse so I can keep the lid closed and control it from the couch. This is used to watch Hulu, MSNBC, CNN, Sports (NCAA, NASCAR), and many other internet based services. Ustream, Livestream, Justin.tv, and Crackle are just some of the content providers. Youtube and vimeo are also great and Youtube does many live events. Netflix can be used this way, but I access it differently. The key to using these services for live events is to keep on top of them and get schedules emailed to you if possible so you know what is coming up.
  • Sony BDP-S470 networked Blu-ray player - This is my primary Netflix device. If you are going to drop cable you need the $7.99 streaming service for movies and TV shows. The player is of course also used for DVDs and Blu-rays. It also has access to many other online streaming services, some of which where also mentioned in the bullet point above. (The S480 is the current successor.)

With those three points I am able to fill my TV/movie time with much more meaningful content. Other devices like the Roku and Boxee offer much of the same content in different ways. Google TV is a viable option also. You need to work out what works best for you and slowly move to using it in place of cable as you step down over your 6 month period. 

As for Hulu Plus; I used the service during the testing period and many months after the public launch. I found the content at $7.99 a month not to be worth it. Their free version has most of it anyway. Also with my laptop hook up there was no advantage for the "TV" streaming privilege that I could get over the Blu-ray player. Something else to keep in mind is that they also have streaming problems over the Sony Blu-ray players. It may be worth it for some after you research it well.


Phone (land-line): This is technically easy for most. Just use your cell phone. The trouble comes in if your parents call you on your home phone, your children are taught to dial 911 from it, or you have had it for years and everyone knows it. It is that hardwired connection to the outside world that most of us grew up with and the emotional connection is strong. Like the cable, you can transition yourself. Use your cell phone more even though you still have a land-line. This will make it that much easier when you finally get the courage to call and cancel it. You can get a bit more complex like my set up:

  • Cell phone - I have a Motorola Charm with Android 2.1 linked to my Google Voice number and voicemail.
  • Google Voice - Used for calls over the internet. I have a Bluetooth headset linked to my laptop for this.
  • Sipdroid - An Android application I use to make calls with Google Voice over the internet through my cell phone without using minutes.

Some WiFi calling offered by your carrier, like T-Mobile, may use your minutes so watch out.

With that you are FREE! You can easily save over a hundred dollars a month and it feels great to let those services go. If you have any questions if you are going to cut the cord please let me know, or if you have please let other know your tips in the comments.